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Tuesday, 02 May 2017 16:07

Late Recommendation: Horizon: Zero Dawn


Around three million PS4 owners have already enjoyed this game, but I am compelled to put some words in print about just how good Horizon: Zero Dawn is.

Available for a couple of months now as a Sony PS4 exclusive, it is worth mentioning that this, for people that in any way enjoy a third-person action adventure, particularly in an open-world environment, Horizon: Zero Dawn is a system selling new intellectual property from Guerrilla Games. Guerrilla Games is previously known for the Sony exclusive Killzone first-person shooter that, over the course of several games, tells a tight linear brutal story.

Which meant it was such a surprise that out of this studio pops this open-world adventure that owes much of its lineage to games such as The Witcher, Far Cry and even Uncharted.

Horizon: Zero Dawn does inherit some subtle influences from Killzone, the strongest of which is great writing.  The tale of Aloy is compelling from the beginning; a young outcast in a strange tribal world, that is revealed early on to be our Earth far in the future after some self-imposed, civilisation destroying calamity, who is driven to explore and unravel the mysterious of the past, including her own origin.

The story, as it plays out during this game, is even more compelling than that short description, and the engines that drive this game are some of the best constructed in an open-world game that we have ever seen.

Aloy must hunt the creatures of the world to expand her tools (similarly, but superior, to the systems in the last few iterations of Far Cry).

The problem is that most of the creatures across the delightfully variable landscape are not alive.  They are menacing robotic creations only loosely related to animals (or more accurately, dinosaurs) of Earth past. And they are all aggressive.

Again, combat highlights the systems of the game Aloy can craft or purchase weapons that have a variety of properties.  One of these is Tear, that can remove components on these menacing robots, both big and small. 

Stripping off components has two positive effects for Aloy. The creature usually loses some ability (for example a ranged weapon), and, at the end of the fight some components can be used by Aloy for trade or as a weapon.

Exploration is also rewarded, if Aloy finds a Cauldron (an underground man-made cavern of mystery), she will be rewarded with the knowledge to better understand the creatures she battles.

Even the collectibles and bandit camps (yes, another inspiration from Far Cry) have value in finding, and completing.

So many people have already enjoyed this game, but if anybody needed any more encouragement I urge you to check out the world that has been created here.

Aloy’s world is beautiful (even on a stock PS4 with a non-4K HDR enabled screen), perhaps a little predictable, but always compelling. It is a sure sign that an open-world game has you when each and every side-quest feels meaningful and progressive; even in the late game you will be joyously hunting for trout or tactfully working out how to destroy the signal mechanism in a bandit camp.

The combat is challenging, tactical and rewarding right to the climax. 

Sony needs to be commended for putting some backing behind this game. Whilst, yes, Guerrilla Games is a studio that produces PlayStation centric games, a new intellectual property is always a gamble. Here, however, with Horizon: Zero Dawn the teams have struck video-game gold.


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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.


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